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Head of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church describes role of Churches in mass protests

2014-02-27

Violence and tensions over the future of Ukraine caught the Pope's attention in the past few weeks.

POPE FRANCIS
"I assure the Ukrainian people of my closeness and pray for the victims of the violence, for their families, and for the injured. I urge all parties to cease every form of violence and to pursue harmony and peace throughout the country.”

Mass protests in the nation's capital, Kiev, continue to this day, over the government's decision to seek closer ties with Russia. Amid these protests, the Christian Churches in Ukraine have stood side by side, supporting the people.

SVIATOSLAV SHEVCHUK
Major Archbishop, Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church 
"In these times, our Churches have been able to overcome any denominational divisions.”

Sviatoslav Shevchuk leads the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Along with its Orthodox counterparts, the Roman rite Church, and several Protestant denominations, they're a part of the Council of Churches. It allows the various Churches to speak with one voice. And it's clear where they stand. 

SVIATOSLAV SHEVCHUK
Major Archbishop, Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church 
"We had emergency meetings and had asked openly and publicly to speak with the president and the opposition as mediators of peace.”

During the days of protests, and the ensuing crackdown by police, the Churches worked together to stop violence, and to help the wounded. At the height of the bloodshed, Shevchuk said the churches opened up their doors and became makeshift hospitals to treat the wounded.

SVIATOSLAV SHEVCHUK
Major Archbishop, Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church 
"The Churches became mediators of peace. And then the Church, as a good mother, did all it could to save her children, to cover them with her mantle, and save their lives.”

Though the worst of the violence seems over, tensions between East and West portions of the Ukraine threaten any chance at stability. Shevchuk said the Churches must continue to work together for the good of the country.

SVIATOSLAV SHEVCHUK
Major Archbishop, Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church 
"As the leaders of the Churches, we will do everything to fight this sin of division. We will do everything to not speak out in favor or against Russia, or in favor or against the West.”

Shevchuk appealed for international solidarity for Ukraine, especially from Europe. But he also  said that the current situation shouldn't be exploited for political reasons.

The major archbishop said Pope Francis is aware of the on-going situation. But, in March, he will return to Rome to meet privately with the Pope, to give him more details about the Church's role as mediators of peace. 


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